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ALEXA2TOEB  VOK  HUMBOLBT.                209
-some day visit towns on the ridge of the Cordilleras.,
higher than the peak of Teneiiffe, which he hoped to
reach next day.
As the cold increased, clouds lowered round the
peak, and, althqugh the north wind drove them furi-
ously away, new ones were always gathering, and the
moon, with a peculiarly blue disk, sometimes peeped
through clouds and mist. Gradually the point of the
volcano shrouded itself in thick. mist, which suddenly
again separating, showed the large pyramid of the
peak in threatening vicinity, casting its tremendous
shadow on the lower clouds.
At three o'clock in the morning Humboldt and his
companions started on the way to Pit-on, the guides
faintly lighting the road with dim pine torches.    In
two hours they reached a plain called the station of
the natives, where the people rest who fetch ice and
snow to sell in the neighbouring towns.    There  is a
so-called ice cave here 1732 toises (10,392 feet) high,
so situated that the rays of the sun cannot enter it to
melt the ice and snow which accumulates during the
winter.    Humboldt and his companions left this ice
cave with the  morning   twilight,  and  struggled on.
through the broken lava, having often to use their
hands for climbing.     Here an atmospheric pheno-
menon surprised them—they seemed to see rockets
rising  in  the  east,   the guides had never  seen this
before, and anticipated an approaching eruption of the
volcano, when Humboldt perceived that the appar-
ently  floating   sparks   were the   reflections of stars
which mirrored themselves in the moving mist.    The
journey  was   now   continued through  the   so-called
Malpay, and became extremely fatiguing and difficult^
for the lava has not only very sharp edges and forms
caves of several feet deep, but also frequently breaks
off and rolls down,    The indolence and ill-will of the
guides made the ascent more difficult still, for they
did not wish to go any further., sat down every tea
minutes to resfc,  secretly  threw away the minerals
•which Humboldt and Boirpland   had carefully col-